September 14, 2018 11:15 pm
Updated: September 15, 2018 12:51 am

Trump dismisses official count of almost 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico, but he takes Geraldo’s word

Sept. 13: U.S. President Donald Trump is being called "shameful" and "delusional" for making false claims about Puerto Rico's death toll from Hurricane Maria last year. As Ines de La Cuetara reports, Trump denies that 3,000 people died in the disaster.

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There were 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico that came as a result of Hurricane Maria. That’s a number that came out of Puerto Rico’s government after it commissioned a study by George Washington University.

However, that figure wasn’t good enough for U.S. President Donald Trump. So what is? Apparently, the word of Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera.

WATCH: Trump denies 3,000 Puerto Ricans died due to Hurricane Maria, blames Democrats

On Friday night, Trump tweeted a quote from Rivera in which the broadcaster cast skepticism on the official death count in Puerto Rico.

In the tweet, Trump quoted Rivera saying, “They say all these people died in the storm in Puerto Rico, yet 70 per cent of the power was out before the storm. So when did people start dying?”

Rivera uttered the comments on an episode of Fox News show The Five that aired on Friday.

“When was it on Hurricane Maria that the people started [dying], was it when the power went out?

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“I was there a long time, there was a transformer fire and the power went out, when they started dying then?”

“I mean, at what point do you recognize that what they’re doing is a political agenda, couched in the nice language of journalism?”

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Rivera’s figure about power outages didn’t mesh with one reported by the Los Angeles Times.

That report, while acknowledging that Puerto Rico’s power system was on “life support” before the hurricane, also said that approximately 96 per cent of residents had power restored to them after Hurricane Irma hit before Maria.

How a study came up with an estimate of deaths

The estimate of 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico originates in a report by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

That study was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello as an independent assessment of mortality that came as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Death figures were estimated by looking at mortality between September 2017 and February 2018, as well as modelling data for population trends, emigration and displacement.

General view of a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 23, 2017.

EPA/Thais Llorca via AP

It found that “total excess mortality post-hurricane” using the “migration displacement scenario” was estimated at 2,975 between September 2017 and February 2018.

There was a higher and more persistent risk of death for people living in “low socioeconomic development municipalities” while men aged 65 and over “experienced continuous elevated risk of death through February.”

Other groups approached the “baseline mortality risk at two and four months post-hurricane.”

Nevertheless, the president distrusted these figures in a series of tweets on Thursday.

Trump blamed the Democrats, but as CNN noted, initial estimates of six to 13 deaths came from Puerto Rico’s public safety director, reporting figures provided by mayors.

Those figures had not been confirmed by law enforcement, however.

The official death toll later grew to 64, a figure that included “indirect deaths” connected to the hurricane.

They would continue to grow with a series of studies.

On Friday night, Trump defended his dismissal of the 3,000 figure in a series of tweets.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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